Taiwan Machine Tool Industry Helps Make Taiwan the World’s Second Largest Manufacturer of Masks in Just 40 days
Uncovering Taiwan’s Manufacturing under COVID-19 Now the World’s Second Largest Mask Producer in Just 40 days
With COVID-19 devastating world manufacturing now, most factories have either paused work or are slowly recovering. Contrary to most of the world, Taiwan is still able to maintain full staff levels in offices. A part of this result can be attributed to the massive increase in mask production capacity, which now has made Taiwan rank the world’s second largest mask supplier. Such capacity expansion was at first estimated to take 6 months – much too slow compared to the speed at which COVID-19 spreads. But it ended up taking only 40 days to build up all the 92 sets of automated mask production lines with support from the machine tool industry.Mask production from 2.24 million per day to 13 million
In late January, COVID-19 had begun to spread globally, and Taiwan was at the front line of the strike. Knowing little about the virus, the government decided to expand mask production capacity so that it would be capable of supplying enough masks for domestic demand, and it needed 92 sets of automated lines which required 6 months for assembly.
“As long as we are provided with the built-up layout, we can assemble it.”
“If there’s demand for robotics in combating COVID-19, we will make it our priority to support.”
“We can help handle the electrical circuits.”
These were the replies when the many Taiwan machine tools manufacturers heard about the difficulties faced with mask production. Over 80 manufacturers immediately organized to volunteer and send out staff to join in the mask machine assembly. Given that masks were not a common household necessity as they are now, the lack of manpower made assembly of the 92 sets a hard task. The volunteers came in to fill in for the needed workforce, and they also self-produced parts that were lacking for mask assembly. They even assisted in troubleshooting during the test runs. Up to 100 workers were volunteering on site during the busiest time, and an average of 60 workers were there every day.
Taiwan mask production was at 2 million and 240 thousand masks per day in January, and it has been increased fivefold within 40 days to 13 million in March. Now, 17 million masks are produced per day.
The new manufacturing trend: Safeguarding factory work with new tech for remote control management
By sending staff to support mask production, the corresponding travelling and congregation of large groups gathered at the mask production site have created another concern for these 80 machine tool manufacturers. Wearing masks, checking temperature, and sanitizing hands are now mandatory rules at every factory’s entrance. In order to ensure every employee is free from COVID-19, many factories are conducting full sanitization every couple day, as well as taking other precaution measures like staggered sitting arrangements or taking lunch in shifts. In addition, the machine tool manufacturers are evolving toward more flexibility at their work by adopting remote monitoring.
After the virus, the global manufacturing chain is rethinking decentralization and one country supply chains, and adopting digitalized manufacturing with remote controlling. This can change the current manufacturing method in order to prevent any more manufacturing downtime.
The IIoT technology adopted on the production platform allows the factory to receive live feed on manufacturing processes and machine status, and the control manager can conduct Remote Control Management (RCM) to assign work programs, either at the control room or simply using their mobile devices. This helps reduce the number of onsite workers required, while solving manufacturing issues. Several Taiwan machine tools brands like YCM, GOODWAY, CAMPRO are already seeing some good potential in furthering this manufacturing trend even after the virus situation calms.
Aside from the RCM, other non-contact technologies such as Augmented Reality (AR) could also be used. During troubleshooting, using visualized communication with customers could allow similar results without the need to send a technician to clients’ location, and predictive maintenance can be easily conducted that can essentially prevent machine downtime and lower costs for customers.
By realizing smart manufacturing, humans are not removed from the production element, but instead they are provided with smart tools and more user-friendly interfaces to further strengthen manufacturing efficiency. This is a development not to be missed out on. Undermined by COVID-19, smart manufacturing might have already provided another path for future business.